GROWING NOT IN FEAR BUT IN GRATITUDE LIKE MARY

June 20, 2021 – Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help; 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062021.cfm)

When I was growing up, I was taught to fear God because He brings punishment to disobedient children. I was taught to be good and to follow my parents and elders so that God won’t be angry at me and condemn me in hell. Somehow, I developed dependence on rules and regulations, at home and at school. I tended to be hard on myself and on others whenever rules were broken. Yet, I was also inclined to feel righteous by being an obedient boy but condemning to those who did not follow the rules.

Such upbringing made me believe that God was like an old grandfather always holding a stick and whose eyes were always angry, ready to strike a naughty boy.

However, this belief in God made me distant from God. Faith and my relationship with the Lord was motivated by fear of punishment. Is this the kind of faith that God wants us to develop, then? Does God want us to relate with Him through fear?

Surely, this is not what God wants. God’s self-revelation in our history tells us that God is our creator, defender, savior, a parent, a friend, and a companion because his love is everlasting, as what the Psalm proclaimed today. Indeed, in Jesus, God tells us that He is with us, he brings good news, freedom and salvation.

This is the very image that has been revealed to us in today’s Gospel. The disciples who were terrified by the storm thought that Jesus was indifferent to the dangers they were facing. Yet, they were wrong. Jesus was entirely confident in the Father. This is what Jesus showed to them as he calmed the storm and brought peace. Having these images and experiences of God, should we be afraid of Him which could prevent us to develop an intimate relationship with God?

God desires us that we love Him. He constantly invites us to come closer to Him because through Him, then, we shall find the fullness of our life. Jesus desires that we grow in gratitude to God for not giving up on us and for being always with us. In fact, St. Paul told us in his letter to the Corinthians, “Christ died for all” – for each of us no matter how underserving we are.

We find this in the life of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Mary is motivated by love and gratitude to God. Despite the fear that she felt at the announcement of Angel Gabriel to carry in her womb the presence of God, love and gratitude also must have filled her heart to respond to God.

Her constant listening to God allowed her to understand more fully the identity and mission of her Son and Lord. Because of this, Mary must have discovered herself in God’s plan of salvation. And Mary responded to Gabriel saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done according to your word,” because the love and gratitude in her heart made her more confident not just with herself, with her ability and strength but most especially, she has become totally confident to God who loves her.

Indeed, Mary, our Mother, brings inspiration to us now that our God, certainly, desires that we become grateful to Him because it is when we become grateful that we become confident. By being grateful to God, our insecurities will certainly lessen and our fears will be transformed into faith. This is how we become a new creation, as what St. Paul told us, because gratitude brings us closer to Christ and whoever is in Christ is a new creation.

Let us also remember that when we become grateful, we also become joyful because we will be able to recognize how blessed we are. This is also how the old things in us, (our old hatred and grudges, anger and insecurities) shall pass away so that new things will come.

Mary, as a new creation, is certainly a joyful woman, and no wonder, she is blessed among women because with her is the presence of God.

This gratitude and joy will move us also to recognize ultimately the source of blessings. When we are able to recognize God then, it also follows that we will be moved to respond to Him in love.

The Book of Deuteronomy (6:5) tells us to love the Lord God with all our heart, whole being and strength. Loving the Lord then, is our expression, not of fear, but of our deep gratitude to God.

Moreover, Jesus reminds us of the immediate result of loving the Lord. The love of neighbor is the concrete manifestation of loving the Lord. Remember, God’s image is in each of us. Therefore, if we love God, then, it also means that our love is being expressed towards ourselves and with our brothers and sisters who are created in God’s image and likeness.

Thus, we should be very careful when we tend to become so stiff with our religious practices but having a growing indifference towards people around us, then, our devotion to God is empty and merely motivated by fear. Our religiosity can be a mere appearance of our arrogant devotion when we also refuse to see and recognize the abuses in our community and choose to be silent amidst oppression and injustice committed against the powerless and the weak.

To love God calls us then, to love one another. And we can begin and renew our commitment today by being grateful to God which would hopefully make us joyful persons like Mary. When we are joyful, God transforms us to be generous to others, both in our words and deeds. Thus, joyful and grateful persons are truly generous because true generosity springs forth from those attitudes of gratitude and joy. However, when we pretend to be generous but having an impure motive, just to advance our personal interests, then, this is not a true expression of love towards others, but selfishness.

Hopefully, we will be constantly reminded through our devotion to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help to grow not in fear but in gratitude and that Jesus invites us to love our God and our neighbors, regardless of our differences. Hinaut pa.

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